Morning Orientation, Evening Orientation

Practice of the Week
Morning Orientation, Evening Orientation

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these slogans, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

from Training in Compassion
Norman Fischer, adapted

Begin at the beginning and end at the end. In other words, begin each day by orienting yourself, and end each day by orienting yourself. This refers to a particular very practical practice that I recommend to everyone. It’s quite simple. At the beginning of the day, on arising, say to yourself (and you can train your mind to cue itself to the practice as soon as your feet first strike the floor on arising from bed):
“Today I want to dedicate myself, to the best of my ability, to being generous and openhearted and benefiting others.”
That’s the point of today. That’s why you are getting up and not staying in bed. That’s why you are going to work or doing whatever it is you are doing. If you are a daily meditator, you can then go to your meditation in this same spirit.

At the end of the day, before going to bed, perhaps sitting on the edge of the bed or getting into the bed, take a few moments to review the day’s activities. Let your mind lightly slide over events that occurred, moments that will pop into your mind when bidden. And say to yourself:
“May everything that I have done today, with whatever level of skill or good intentions, in some way benefit others.”
The biggest problem with the idea of doing spiritual practice in our contemporary world is that there doesn’t seem to be time for it. No time to meditate at home in the morning – must rush off to work. No time to meditate in the evening – too tired and, anyway, there’s family, meals, more work, e-mails, phone calls. Certainly no time to go to a retreat, no time to go someplace to meditate with others – my schedule won’t permit it, it is too expensive, too far away, and so on.

This may all be true. But certainly there is no one who can’t afford or is too busy to have a thought in the morning and a thought in the evening. Cultivating the discipline to practice this slogan, even if it is the only one you can manage to practice, is sure to have a big impact on your life. It will change the way you feel about your days and how you view them.

You have been going through your life with some underlying attitude. Probably you don’t even know what it is. But it conditions how you feel about your life. Practicing this slogan will ennoble and elevate that attitude. And that change of attitude will being to affect everything in your life.

When you start your day, you could actually take a moment to think about what you are doing. Instead of just launching in, you could begin properly, with something in mind beyond just getting through your to-do list. In particular, you could look on each day as an opportunity to train your mind.

At the end of the day, before you fall asleep, instead of just flopping, you could review how you have done. You could begin by appreciating the times you were connected with compassion and joined it with what you were doing. Then you could also reflect on the times when you lost your connection to compassion and acted accordingly.

The idea is not to beat yourself up for losing your sense of compassion, nor is it to give yourself a medal for being good. You do not need to blame yourself or to blame anyone else. The idea is simply to take note so that you can shift your energy gradually in the direction of kindness and awareness.

The life of compassion and wisdom is a life-long journey, but that journey takes place one day at a time. You cannot do anything about days gone by, and speculating about the future can be overwhelming and somewhat pointless. But you can look at each day as a practice period, with a beginning and an end. So every morning you take a fresh start, and every evening you have a chance appraise how you have done.

Practice: Notice how easy it is to get so caught up with your life that you never have a chance to see it in any larger perspective. What happens if you take even a little time at the beginning and end of the day to step back and look at what you are doing? What makes you remember your commitment to compassion and what makes you forget?

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